Third tenor wins first title

Zac Reicks

ALBANY, N.Y. – On Saturday Aaron Holker was the third tenor, the fifth Beatle and Buzz Aldrin all in one.

Behind the hoopla surrounding Cael Sanderson’s fourth straight national championship and Joe Heskett’s long overdue title, Holker’s first career national championship at 141 pounds was almost lost in the shuffle.


The fifth-ranked junior from Orem, Utah capped off a banner year by defeating second ranked Eric Larkin of Arizona State, 10-5 in the finals of the Division I NCAA Wrestling Championships Saturday.

It was the third time this season Holker had defeated Larkin and the second time in his career that he became an All-American.

Holker took down Larkin to begin the first period for an early 2-0 lead.

After avoiding disaster by wiggling out of a cradle at the edge of the mat late in the first period, Holker scored a reversal out of a wild scramble and was in control until the end.

“After that first takedown, that got a lot of confidence in me,” Holker said. “I really didn’t know I was going to win until that last takedown in the third period.”

Holker transferred to Iowa State after an All-American sophomore year at Brigham Young University.

Lured by the Sanderson brothers, (Cody, Cole and Cael all hail from Heber City, Utah) and a visit to his house by ISU head coach Bobby Douglas, Holker gave the Cyclones a third highly-ranked wrestler who could contend for a national title.

“It was through their relentless pursuit that I was convinced this was the place I should go,” Holker said.

“At first I told them no, but they just kept after me until I changed my mind.”

In his road to the championship, Holker defeated 12th-ranked Coyte Cooper of Indiana, fourth-ranked Dylan Long of Northern Iowa, top-ranked Mark Conley of Navy, and Larkin.

However, in a weight class where each of the top five seeds had beaten each other, the championship was truly up for grabs.

“Our weight was so tough that there could have been five number one seeds,” Holker said. “Iowa State’s tough schedule really helped. At my weight there were a lot of guys from smaller schools, so no one wrestled each other. Having wrestled Nate Parker (Oklahoma’s semifinalist) and Larkin really helped my confidence.”

On Saturday evening, Holker watched history being made in the form of the great Cael Sanderson but also made a little personal history as well.

In what was a tremendous day for Iowa State wrestling, the contributions of the “kid with the funky style,” as Holker refers to himself, went a long way in clinching second place in the team standings for Iowa State.

While people will always remember the 2002 national tournament as the place where Sanderson made history, Holker doesn’t mind sharing the headlines with the best of all time and his teammates.

“If you say you wrestled with Dan Gable, people will be amazed. I can tell them I wrestled with Cael,” Holker said. “We had 5 of 7 guys become all Americans, and the guys that didn’t make it still worked their butts off. I thought we wrestled great.”